An exciting weekend of college football saw the national rankings in flux after several highly rated teams went down to defeat. It was also a weekend where a number of skill prospects, specifically pass catchers, turned in great performances for NFL scouts. And as we move through the second month of the season comes word on additional juniors expected to enter the draft. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 8.
Eric Ebron/TE/North Carolina: Ebron continues to impress on the field and march up draft boards. The junior was the star player on the field last Thursday despite the Tar Heels loss to Miami. Ebron finished with 8-receptions for 199 yards and one score. Four minutes into the second half he set the UNC receiving yardage mark in a single game by a tight end. He’s everything NFL teams want at the position; big, athletic, fast enough to break downfield as a receiver and the strength to hold his own as a blocker. Expect Ebron to be a top 40 pick once he enters the draft. Tune into the Draft Insiders Podcast this Tuesday for more on Ebron.
Justin Hardy/East Carolina: Hardy was graded as one of our top prospects from Conference USA before the start of the season and he hasn’t disappointed. During the Pirates lopsided victory over Southern Mississippi his totals included 12 receptions for 126-yards with one score. This comes off a 17 reception, 230-yard performance the prior week against Tulane as the junior is averaging just under ten receptions per game. He’s moderately size and not a true vertical threat but Hardy is developing into a terrific slot receiver/third wide out prospect for the next level.
Josh Stewart/Oklahoma State: Stewart is another slot receiver prospect who also brings the element of game breaking return specialist. He totaled 10 receptions for 141 yards during the Cowboys win over TCU, getting his team on the board with a 95 yard punt return four minutes into the game. Late in the fourth quarter, with TCU drawing closer, Stewart made a seemingly impossible reception in a crowd which lead to the game sealing score for Oklahoma State.
Stewart possesses dynamic qualities to his game and would be a fine addition as a third/fourth receiver in the NFL.
Mike Campanaro/WR/Wake Forest: And Campanaro makes three. The veteran receiver was literally a one man show as Wake Forest got back to respectability after a tough start to the season. In the blowout win over Maryland on Saturday, Campanaro registered 11 receptions for 122 yards with one score. He also threw a touchdown pass to close out the first half. Campanaro is neither big (5-feet, 9.5-inches) or fast (4.53s-forty) rather a polished receiver with a dependable game. He’ll be a solid last day pick who’ll make an NFL squad as a slot receiver/punt returner.
Lamarcus Joyner/DB/Florida State: If it wasn’t a career game for Joyner his performance against Clemson will definitely stand out to NFL scouts. Joyner created three turnovers in the contest, forcing a pair of fumbles as well as intercepting one pass. His eight tackles were the finishing touch. He played smart, tough football against one of the nation’s most lethal offenses, something he does every weekend. Standing just over 5-feet, 8-inches, Joyner has height limitations which will cause mismatches at the next level. Yet creative defensive coordinators will find a place for Joyner as a nickel back/spot starter on Sundays. A second day calling of his name next April is a definite possibility.
Braylon Webb/S/Missouri: Webb makes it two consecutive weeks a Missouri Tiger defender graces the Risers list. We stamped the junior as a potential fourth round pick entering the season and he’s shown himself to be every bit worthy. During Missouri’s decisive victory over Florida, Webb lead the defense with 8 tackles and presently sits second on the team with a total of forty this year. Add in four pass defenses in 2013, also second on the squad, and its understandable to see why Webb is considered a complete player at the safety position.
Cameron Fleming/T/Stanford: With so much talent on the Stanford offensive line its easy to get over looked. And while that may be the case with Fleming in the outside world, scouts have taken notice of his next level potential. The big right tackle is a strong yet nimble blocker who handles lineman at the point of attack or easily gets out to the second level and annihilates linebackers. He displayed all these skills on Saturday in the Cardinal win over UCLA. You can stamp Fleming as a second day draft pick right now.
Brendon Kay/QB/Cincinnati: This one belongs in the “ridiculously underrated player” category. Kay was effective after taking hold of the starting job in the middle of the 2012 season then found himself on the bench when the 2013 campaign began. He was forced back under center in mid-September after Munchie Legaux went down with a gruesome injury. Kay has since displayed consistent progress, most recently completing 71% of his throws for 300-yards and 4 scores against a UConn defense with a good amount of next level personnel. Kay is an efficient passer (71.5% completion percentage, better than 3-to-1 TD-to-Int ratio this season) but also possesses a big arm (his 41-yard touchdown pass at the start of the second quarter Saturday was a thing of beauty). Scouts stamped Kay as barely camp worthy entering the season yet his combination of brains and arm strength should get him late round consideration next April.
Chaz Sutton/DE/South Carolina: Its getting to the point where a search warrant may be issued for Sutton, who’s seemingly disappeared this season. He posted 4 tackles and 1 tackle for loss during the teams loss to Tennessee and literally fell into some of those tackles. In seven games Sutton’s totals include 19 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 quarterback hurries. To be fair he has posted 6.5 tackles for loss. Entering the season we stamped Sutton as a middle round choice while scouts graded him as a free agent. Thus far we’ve been wrong.
Ty-Meer Brown/S/Connecticut: Its been a terrible season for the UConn Huskies, whose record stands at 0-6. There’s talent on the defensive side of the ball but its been a leaky unit at times this season. Brown, whom we rated as a potential sixth round choice during our AAC preview, has struggled in coverage and looks more and more like a one-dimensional run defender. He lead UConn in tackles during the blowout loss to Cincinnati yet gave up several long receptions and on a number of occasions was late getting to the ball.
Notes: With all the talk of recently dismissed tight end Colt Lyerla and his disappointing on the field performance, its time to mention two players at the position who’ve shown consistent improvement in their play. Week three riser Jace Amaro continues to impress NFL scouts with his next level ability. He’s totaled 9 receptions in each of the past two games for Texas Tech, posting 136 receiving yards against West Virginia on Saturday after beating Iowa State for 143-yards the prior week. In fact Amaro has caught nine passes in five of the Red Raiders seven games this season. The other tight end to keep an eye on, and one scouts speaking highly of, is junior MyCole Pruitt of Southern Illinois. Pruitt totaled 43 receptions as a freshman then followed it up with 49 catches during his sophomore campaign. Thus far he’s registered 41 receptions in 2013, with four games left on the schedule. More of an H-back/move tight end, scouts like Pruitt’s pass catching skills and his ability to make plays down the field. To date I have not heard whether or not Pruitt would forgo his senior campaign for the NFL draft.
Two receivers who formerly made our Risers list also continue upward movement on draft boards. Texas A&M red-sophomore Mike Evans, also a week three riser, turned in another dominant performance on Saturday, with Auburn victimized this time around. Evans numbers were a jaw-dropping 11 receptions, 287-yards and 4 touchdowns. Sources close to the program told me late last week word is Evans will enter the draft. If true don’t be surprised if he’s the first receiver off the board next April.
Weekfour riser Brandin Cooks was unstoppable against Cal. The stats line read 13 receptions, 232-yards and 1 touchdown when the game ended. To date Cooks has posted 76 receptions, 1176-yards and 12 touchdowns with five games remaining on the schedule. Next weeks contest against Stanford bears watching as does the season finale against Oregon on November 29th as both teams field talented secondary’s which will be trying to shut down Cooks. I’m told Cooks will enter the draft and fits somewhere in day two.
Another junior I’m hearing will enter the draft is UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood. A northeast scout for an AFC North team told me they’ve been doing plenty of advanced scouting in anticipation for Smallwood’s entry into the draft. This scout grades Smallwood as a mid-round pick, most likely at the start of the draft’s final day (fourth round). Barring a terrible forty time I feel Yarwood is third round value as I liken his game in substance and style to that of David Harris, the former Michigan star selected in the second round of the 2007 draft by the New York
Jets.Michael Sam, a week seven riser, took his game to another level against Florida on Saturday. The senior posted 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 1 quarterback hurry during the Tigers victory.